Attapulgus -- You could say Lillian E. Williams Elementary school in Attapulgus holds a special place in Mac McRae's heart. When he came for a kindergarten teaching job here nearly 30 years ago, he was hired for another position instead.
"The woman that got the kindergarten class, I ended up marrying her, and she went back to Tallahassee, and I took the kindergarten class," he said.
McRae not only met his wife here but has come to consider the faculty staff and his students as a family. "It's been home for me for 29 years now."
But at the end of the school year in 2009, L-E-W, as well as West Bainbridge Middle School, will close, due to a five-year school reorganization plan.
"All 5th and 6th graders will go to the present Hutto Middle School, all 7th and 8th graders will go to the present Bainbridge High School, that will become a 7th and 8th grade school." said L.E.W. Asst. Principal Lauren Turner.
The new Bainbridge high school, under construction now, will house 9th through 12th graders.
"Some of the elementary schools are crowded and if they take the 5th graders out that will relieve some of that overcrowding," Turner said.
In addition to dwindling enrollment, the Justice Department recommended L-E-W be the one to close because of their racial make-up. Ninety percent of the students are black, 8% Hispanic, and 2% white.
"They wanted our students to be in schools that were more racially proportioned to the county make-up."
With the list of reasons to close, faculty and staff at L-E-W concede it was a logical choice, but will miss the school nonetheless.
"I would like to see it used for our children," Turner said. "This school has really been the backbone of the community and that's been the concern of some of the parents and community leaders."
"I'll probably be one of the last ones to walk out the door," McRae said.
With that McRae will also end his teaching career, retiring from the school that has come to mean so much.
At the request of some community members in Attapulgus, the Decatur County Board of Education may decide to use the elementary school for after school programs.